Records, Movies And Books



White House Down (2 stars)

‘Tis the summer of box office busts. Most of the major production companies have had at least one big failure and it seems that White House Down may be next on the list.

The story sees U.S. Capitol Cop and wannabe Secret Service Agent, John Cale (Channing Tatum), don a white vest in a sort of Die Hard like fashion, and run around the corridors and secret passageways of the White House protecting President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) from a shady terrorist organization. The emotional arcs of the story focus on the relationship between perceived failure, Cale, and his despondent daughter whose only interest in life is U.S. politics, and President Sawyer’s lauded yet controversial efforts to remove U.S. troops from the Middle East.

What follows is several hours chock-full of patriotic hyperbole and chaotic action punctuated by formulaic comedic interludes. However, some of the quiet moments fall short with one particular scene involving a black President and his Air Jordan shoes bordering on bad taste. The film culminates into a cringe worthy final act, which would grate on all but the staunchest red-blooded American Patriot.

The predictable plot and relatively average action amount to a forgettable movie. To make any impression on a summer saturated by some of the most explosive action films of recent years, you really have to be packing heat and White House Down falls short of the mark. With no great story to counter this deficiency, it fails to stand out in a crowded bracket. Dawa Tshering 


Pacific Rim (2.5 stars)

The premise of Pacific Rim is drawn from the Kaiju genre of Japanese Manga, which gave the world the likes of Godzilla. That being said, the monsters in Pacific Rim dwarf nearly everything seen on screen before them. Expect carnage on a global scale and some of the finest action and combat scenes of the summer.

Helming the project is director, Guillermo del Toro, who has given us such masterpieces as Pan’s Labyrinth. He’s known for creating films with infinitely detailed worlds that combine a unique mix of spectacle and beauty and Pacific Rim is no different. The robots are sensational. The near apocalyptic world is realized in a dark and expansive fashion. The film is a visual feast. However, being that it was not natively shot in 3-D but converted in post, the added dimension leaves a lot to be desired.

Also lacking from the film is a storyline of decent narrative depth. The plot seemed somewhat an excuse for the action, and, at points, the suspension of disbelief viewers require to stay engrossed, is at an inexcusable level. Certain characters seem almost like caricatures in nature, however, one could argue that a lot of the film’s inspiration relies heavily on cartoons so in some ways, this feature is only a reflection of the film’s origins.

If the idea of giant robot/monster fights has you rubbing sand in your eyes, then this film is not for you, but anyone who grew up watching these sorts of cartoons, or wishes to experience action on a whole new scale, will be thrilled; just don’t expect much depth from Pacific Rim. Andy Harrop 


Mud (4 stars)

Framed by big skies and vast open waterways, Mud transports you to the damp, humid world of the Arkansas Delta for a gripping and heartfelt American coming of age tale.

Mud finds our protagonist, Ellis (Tye Sheridan), at a painfully transitional period in his life. At age fourteen, he is experiencing his first love, the failure of his parents’ marriage and the resultant loss of the houseboat he calls home and the way of life that goes with it.

When Ellis and best friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) discover a boat stranded in a tree by a passing storm on a small island in the delta, they aim to create a secret tree house and world of their own, but soon discover they are not alone. Already living in the boat is the eponymous and mysterious Mud, played by McConaughey, who continues the rehabilitation of a career once plagued by rom-com typecasting. What follows is an uneasy deal where, in exchange for the boat, the boys will help Mud locate and contact his lover, Juniper (Witherspoon), for whom he is waiting.

The steamy atmosphere of the waterways drips off the screen in an intoxicating fashion with the charming, soft southern light captured beautifully. The stunning cinematography is coupled by stellar performances from the cast with standouts from its young leads.

Running in the same vein as classics such as Stand By Me or Huckleberry Finn, it’s a beautifully told tale of boyhood adventure, though female audiences may find it to be deeply one sided. Ewan Colledge 



Only God Forgives (3 stars)


Following the 2011 release of the hugely successful Drive, director Nicolas Winding Refn has once more teamed up with Ryan Gosling to produce another dark, stylized and hyper violent creation.

Set in the seedy, neon underworld of Bangkok, Only God Forgives tells a story of revenge, spiraling out of control. After horrifically raping and murdering an underage prostitute, Billy (Tom Burke) is caught by Thai police. Lieutenant Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) allows the father of the prostitute to beat Billy to death before cutting the father’s arms off for making his daughter work in the brothel. After the news of her first born son’s death, Crystal (Scott Thomas) arrives in Bangkok to demand that her second son Julian (Gosling) seeks revenge upon the men who killed his brother, setting in motion a wave of brutal violence that spreads across the city.

No one does violence as well as Nicolas Winding Refn and the levels of violence in this film are astounding. The whole movie is shot beautifully but is so heavily stylized that it is bordering on becoming a parody of itself. It will divide audiences with fans of the director’s work salivating at the exquisitely constructed shots and those less familiar cringing at the slow and pretentious characters.

Enjoyment of the film will be based solely on how far you are willing to follow the director down his rabbit hole. Dawa Tshering 




Cat Country (4.5 stars)

Lao She Penguin

Considered by many to be China’s first literary work of science fiction, the story starts with a Chinese astronaut crashed and stranded on Mars. He discovers a
planet inhabited by Cat People with their own society that, under closer inspection, is found to be fraught with decline and despair, mirroring the author’s opinions and experiences of an early 20th century China. A savage critique of a culture in turmoil, Cat Country used dark humor and cutting satire with deadly effect.

Lao She considered Cat Country a failure. “What I thought was what most ordinary people were thinking... I simply gave a straight-forward presentation of what was common knowledge at the time and then dignified the whole thing by calling it ‘satire’.” However in doing this, he has managed to allegorically create a true record
of social conditions in the 1930s whose value is now more pronounced than ever in a post cultural revolution China.

Whilst often considered to be one of Lao She’s weaker novels, Cat Country is still in its own rights a modern classic. Deeply comedic, and like last month, Mr Ma and Son, painfully relevant. The world envisaged jumps out of the pages in a fascinating and surreal manor; essential reading for anyone interested in Chinese history. Dawa Tshering 



On The Noodle Road (4.5 stars)

Jen Lin-Liu Penguin Books

In the early stages of her marriage, Jen Lin-Liu embarks on a journey to discover
where the first noodle was invented and ends up discovering herself. On The Noodle Road guides readers through Lin- Liu’s journey on the Silk Road; a historical network of interlinking routes. From China to Rome, Lin-Liu makes stops in Central Asia, Iran and Turkey to eat traditional meals and learn more about the history of the noodle. 

Lin-Liu creates a beautiful picture of the foods she eats, incorporating a personal touch with the people she encounters. With every stop, Lin-Liu encounters vastly different cultures and fully engrosses herself in them.

On The Noodle Road helps to understand the connection between cultures and the way everyone prepares dishes. Along the Silk Road, Lin-Liu learns that food isn’t just sustenance; the people she encounters treat their food with respect. Food is the focal point of some cultures and their passion for preparation is shown in the way Lin-Liu describes every taste.

Lin-Liu’s dedication to her dream never falters; down to the last moment of her journey she is still discovering what it means to be a chef, business owner, journalist and a wife. Having everything is not easy; it’s all about balance and remembering which personal values are the most important. Hailey Howlett 





The Big Dream (3 stars)

David Lynch

2013 sees the release of filmmaker, artist, musician, sometimes actor and all-around creative powerhouse David Lynch’s second album The Big Dream.

Lynch’s musical output has, until recent years, mainly focused around his film work. Originally training as a painter, he moved into the film medium in the 70’s, creating cult classics such as Eraserhead, before moving more to the mainstream with huge critical successes such as Blue Velvet and Mullholand Drive. Throughout this time, musically, he worked on his films and a series of collaborations with successful acts. It wasn’t until 2011, after a multitude of other projects, that he released his first album, Crazy Clown Time.

Lynch’s style is one of bluesy rock with an electronic overcoat. However, one of the music’s great strengths is also its weakness. Much of the pleasure for the listener is derived from the fact that you are listening to David Lynch. Non-fans of the icon may struggle to find as much to enjoy, with the obvious highlight of the album being the song he didn’t sing, I’m Waiting Here, featuring the vocal talents of the always-brilliant Likkie Li. It must be said though that The Big Dream doesn’t feel like an extension of some conceptual art project and functions as an album in its own rights. Lynch’s music possesses a deeply filmic quality; the sound is heavily atmospheric and he can set a scene within the first few notes of a song. His roots are plain to see. Dark and foreboding, the album poses a heavy sound worthy of merit. Ewan Colledge 



Big TV (3 stars)

White Lies

Post-Punk Indie Rock act, White Lies, are back with their follow-up third album Big TV, continuing their successful run of synthy 80’s style, deep voiced, sulking ballads. Fans of bands such as Joy Division and Dépêche Mode will find a lot to like here.

This album displays the band’s solid development from their initial two releases. Where the previous albums tended towards potentially whiny lyrics, Big TV follows a loose concept of an Eastern European woman moving to a western city and focuses on the strained relationships that this causes. While not all-consuming, this general trajectory helps prevent the songs from falling into a monotonous repetition of theme, and on the whole, the album tends toward being a much more uplifting affair.

The melodic riffs and moody anthems that are the hallmark of the band are well suited to playing arenas, yet they seem to dwell more on experimental work that falls loosely on slightly bored ears. Whilst not as repetitive as some
of their earlier work, Big TV can still suffer occasionally from being too generic. When they do hit their stride however, White Lies prove that they are worth following. They are reaching for something, but they’re not quite there; almost tangible, there are flashes of greatness.

Hopefully, when they come to make their next album they stick to the anthems, avoid being too morose and repetitive and leave the experimentation to those who are better suited to it. Andy Harrop 


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